"I hope so."

The man took his pipe from between his teeth and rested it in a well-used ashtray, his gaze never leaving Courtney. "You are much too young to be wandering the halls of this fine old German institution in the middle of the night. Therefore, I deduce you're not a student. Unless, of course, you are extremely intelligent and have been granted admission far before your time."

"I am a student. So are my friends -- but not here." Courtney moved closer to the desk, taking a quick peek at the papers littered with scribbled equations. "You haven't seen them, have you?"

"May I assume they are the same age as you?" he asked. When she nodded, he shook his head negatively and sighed. "I am afraid that children your age are a rare commodity here at the Prussian Academy of Science. It is mostly older students and professors who inhabit these halls."

"Is that where we are? Russia?"

His bushy eyebrows raised questioningly, and then he smiled. "Ah, I see. No, I said the Prussian -- not the Russian -- Academy. You know, Berlin."

"Berlin, as in Germany?"

"Ja." Again his eyebrows raised. "Who did you say you are, again?"

"My name's Courtney." Looking very solemn, she stuck out her hand. With a faint smile, the man shook it.

"Professor Einstein. Albert Einstein."

"That's impossible," she said, matter-of-factly. "I've seen pictures of Albert Einstein. He's an old man with this crazy white hair that flies off in all directions." Courtney frowned as she studied him more closely. "Your hair sort of sticks out like his does, but..."

Einstein chuckled, interrupting Courtney's words. "Perhaps someday, if I live long enough, my hair will be white. It is the way of the world, I believe." He scribbled something on a piece of paper as if a new thought had entered his head, then turned his attention once more to Courtney. "Tell me, Miss Courtney, who has been telling you stories about my hair?"

"Oh, I've read about you," Courtney said, deciding this must be a younger version of the man everyone said was the greatest genius to ever live. "I figured you must be awfully old to be so smart."

He laughed again and picked up his pipe. "Yes, there have been many articles about me in the newspapers. Perhaps you read how the solar eclipse helped English scientists verify my mathematical predictions that light can be deflected and bent by gravity?"

 
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